We were delighted to welcome back to our 2012 LCL/MBA series a former speaker, Steve Eichel, Esq., Partner at Choate, Massachusetts Super Lawyer from 2004-2012, and member of Chambers USA Best Lawyers in America. Steve spoke on a hugely successful networking strategy that has proven very fruitful for him, and has also enabled him to help many colleagues and non-colleagues alike.
The strategy that Steve described and demonstrated for the group consists of 6 basic steps, the initial focus of which are to help you discover how you can help the other, and finally, to enlist their interest in helping you.
Step 1: Inquire of the other person what they are currently trying to accomplish, what is their “top priority.” In a networking event, it’s likely to be work-related, but elsewhere it could be anything.
Step 2: Ask the person what he/she is doing to achieve that goal?
Step 3: Then ask what challenges or problems he/she is having with those efforts.
Step 4: Next ask, “What would help you with that?” You’re trying to identify something very specific, some bite-sized task that you (or someone) could actually do to help.
Step 5: Finally, ask him/her, “What else?” And repeat the process. This increases your chance at being helpful to this person.
Step 6: This is where it is your turn. Ask the person if you can tell them what you are looking for. Be very specific and concrete, so the person can seriously consider how they can help you, or perhaps refer you to someone else.
This is, of course, a bare bones outline, and when fleshed out, could be a 15-minute conversation, or more. When you stay focused on your purpose, listen carefully, and make sure you understand what they are telling you, you demonstrate real interest in the other, and may enable them to think in new ways about what they want. Ideally, you also deliver useful help, whether in the form or an idea, a suggestion, or a contact. In so doing, you have created good will and earned their willingness to return the favor.
This is a strategy that takes preparation and practice, and is worth it. You prepare by making sure you can clearly and concisely answer for yourself the same questions you put to the other, and also clearly and concisely communicate what you want. Practice on a friend or family member, recasting it in your own personality and style.
Networking skills are vital when it comes to finding employment, or building a practice, or developing a career, and having an effective structure to guide you can make all the difference.